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12 Interesting and Fun Facts About Portugal

Updated on May 5, 2016

The Portuguese flag

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Belem Tower
Belem Tower | Source

Portugal is a fascinating country with a proud history that can be felt all throughout the country - from its capital, down to each tiny, picture-perfect village. I've been living in Portugal for over a year now and have learned loads of fascinating facts about the charming country, which I’m eager to share with you!

Are you planning on visiting this westernmost country in Europe soon? Or maybe you have Portuguese roots and want to learn more about your ancestors. In any case, below are twelve facts that are bound to impress anyone about Portugal.

1. Half of the "New World" once belonged to Portugal

In 1494, the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed which essentially gave Portugal the eastern half of the "New Word", including Brazil, Africa, and Asia. The Portuguese Empire was actually the first global empire in history! It was also one of the longest-lived colonial powers, lasting for almost six centuries from when Ceuta was captured in 1415, until Macau (now China) was handed-over in 1999. In 1808, the King of Portugal, Dom João moved to Brazil and proclaimed a single state which included Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves. The single state was called the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves, which was effective from 1815-1822. The new capital of the kingdom was Rio de Janeiro. The kingdom was disestablished in 1822 after the King returned to Portugal in 1821, leaving his son, Prince Dom Pedro to rule Brazil who in turn declared independence from Portugal.

The Portuguese Empire was huge - its former territories are annotated in green

The Portuguese Empire after the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed
The Portuguese Empire after the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed | Source

University of Coimbra - one of the oldest universities in Europe

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2. Portuguese is the official language of 9 countries

Over 236 million people world-wide are native Portuguese speakers. Portuguese is the official language of Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Principe, Sao Tome, and Equatorial Guinea. Portuguese is also spoken in Goa (India), Macao, and East Timor.

3. Portugal is the oldest country in Europe

Portugal has had the same defined borders since 1139, making it the oldest nation-state in Europe. Afonso Henriques was proclaimed the first King of Portugal in 1139 and the country remained a kingdom for almost 800 years thereafter, until 1910.

4. The oldest bookstore in the world is in Portugal's capital

Bertrand bookstore (pictured above, located at the corner), was established in 1732, is located in the capital of Portugal - Lisbon.
Bertrand bookstore (pictured above, located at the corner), was established in 1732, is located in the capital of Portugal - Lisbon. | Source

5. Portugal is the largest cork producer in the world

Portugal produces 70% of the world's cork exports. Main importers of Portuguese cork are: Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. The country also has the largest cork forest.

6. One of the oldest universities in Europe is in Portugal

The University of Coimbra was established in 1290, making it one of the oldest universities on the European continent.

Vasco da Gama Bridge

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7. Portugal has the longest bridge in Europe

The Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon is 10.5 miles (17 kilometers) long, making it the longest in Europe.

8. Portugal and England have the oldest diplomatic alliance in the world

The Anglo-Portuguese Alliance was signed in 1373 and is in force until this day! Both countries entered wars to defend the other, including the United Kingdom entering the Iberian Peninsular War and Portugal entering World War I. Talk about having someone's back!

9. Portugal is one of the world's top surf spots

Portugal has a coastline that spans 497 miles (800 kilometers) and it's known to have 364 days of surf!

The iconic Tram 28 in Lisbon

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10. In 1755, Lisbon was struck by one of the most powerful earthquakes in European history

On the 1st of November in 1755, Lisbon was struck by about a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, which was followed by a tsunami, and fires that brought the city to rubble! Furthermore, the earthquake struck on All Saints Day, a major holiday when the churches were filled with burning candles. The earthquake struck, toppling the candles, causing major fires. 275,000 residents were killed and 85% of the buildings were destroyed! People talk about the devastating earthquake to this day.

11. Portuguese Fado was classified as world cultural heritage by UNESCO

Fado (fate in Portuguese) is a music genre that originates in urban Lisbon. It's a type of mournful and heart-touching folk music sung by the common people. The music genre was recently added to the World's Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

12. Portugal was the first colonial power to abolish slavery

Portugal abolished slavery all the way back in 1761 - that's half a century before Britain, France, Spain, or the United States.

Test your knowledge on Portugal!


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Listen to some Fado!

Map of Portugal

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Comments on interesting Portugal facts

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    • europewalker profile image

      europewalker 5 years ago

      Interesting hub, I enjoy exploring new cities and have not made it to Portugal yet but it is on my list!

    • Global-Chica profile image
      Author

      Anna 5 years ago from New York, NY

      europewalker, Portugal is a fabulous country to explore! I hope you'll make it here soon :)

    • profile image

      Jack Liang 5 years ago

      Portugal is a very beautiful country,I also want to have a travel to Portugal if have a chance.It sound very good to by bike along the coastline.Portugal is also very strong on the sport too.

    • Jamie Brock profile image

      Jamie Brock 5 years ago from Texas

      Thank you for sharing these interesting facts about Portugal. I hear that it's beautiful there. I hope I get to maybe visit some day. Thank you for this very interesting hub :)

    • Global-Chica profile image
      Author

      Anna 5 years ago from New York, NY

      Thanks so much, Jack! I hope that you will get a change to visit Portugal. It is indeed lovely to bike along the coastline near Lisbon (you can even rent a bike for free!) and the Portuguese are really great in soccer.

    • Global-Chica profile image
      Author

      Anna 5 years ago from New York, NY

      Jamie - thanks a lot for your nice comment. Portugal is really beautiful and I hope that you will get to visit.

    • ithabise profile image

      Michael S. 5 years ago from Winston-Salem, NC

      Very interesting! I enjoy geography very much and this adds much to my knowledge--thank you!

    • Global-Chica profile image
      Author

      Anna 5 years ago from New York, NY

      Thanks, ithabise! I'm glad that you enjoyed my collection of facts about Portugal.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      Wow! What great facts here! I learned so much about Portugal. Now, I want to go! :)

    • Global-Chica profile image
      Author

      Anna 5 years ago from New York, NY

      CClitgirl: thanks and I'm happy you found these facts informative. I hope you'll get a chance to travel to this beautiful country!

    • profile image

      Gabriel 5 years ago

      Slavery was also invented by the Portuguese the once dominated the world, and lost everything with on show off .

    • free-seotools profile image

      free-seotools 5 years ago from Portugal

      We love Portugal. Great hub.

    • Global-Chica profile image
      Author

      Anna 5 years ago from New York, NY

      Thanks so much, free-seotools. Portugal is amazing, I agree!

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      João Nunes 4 years ago

      Portugal is an interesting country but ...

      1. Portugal is not the oldest country in Europe.

      Bulgaria, France, Denmark, England, Hungary and San Marino

      are older ! They existed as kingdoms well before Portugal !

      The Portuguese borders date from 1297, not from 1139.

      2. Portugal abolished slavery in 1761 only in mainland Portugal and portuguese India. Slavery continued to exist in portuguese africa until

      1869.

    • profile image

      Eduardo Xavier 4 years ago

      Portugal have the oldest border in Europe for that fact it is the Oldest country in Europe.

      Portugal is the oldest country because never changed his borders or name since 1297 "tratado de alcanizes".

      Denmark is the oldest but it has change his borders.

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Thanks for your interesting facts on Portugal, a lovely country I have visited on a number of occasions. We drove over that long long bridge in Lisbon! Some length!Voted and sharing on!:-)

    • iguidenetwork profile image

      iguidenetwork 4 years ago from Austin, TX

      I thought only Portugal and Brazil are the countries with Portuguese-speaking people. Thanks for sharing your info, I've learned a lot of surprising discoveries about the country. :)

    • profile image

      oceansider 4 years ago

      I enjoyed reading your article about Portugal....it was well done, with lots of good information......There is an elderly couple that goes to my church, and they are Portugese......I don't know where they are from in Portugal. I'll tell them that I read your article & if they have a computer, I will email them the link to this hub so they can read it.

      Thanks for sharing this.

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      Veronika 4 years ago

      Portugal is not oldest country in Europe. Bulgaria is the oldest country, since 681 maybe even earlier...Bulgaria haven´t the same borders, no but Bulgaria was much bigger than now...Same name, same language...

      Ok, Portugal mabe is the oldest country in Europe with the same borders...but not THE OLDEST!

    • profile image

      Veronika 4 years ago

      Ok, soy...It is not Bulgaria, it is san Marino, 301...Bulgaria is the next...

    • profile image

      darrienfrost7 4 years ago

      hi thanks that was a really fancy thing you posted i hope i meet you when i go to portugal

    • profile image

      darrien 4 years ago

      im not going to porchugal anymore because it cost over 1,000000 $:-(

    • profile image

      Pete 4 years ago

      "Gabriel 13 months ago

      Slavery was also invented by the Portuguese the once dominated the world, and lost everything with on show off ."

      LOL and ur saying that the egypcians made their piramides with part-time employees :) and the roman gladiators were doing wrestling on their free time for some bucks because the romans didn't had a health care :D

      LOL dude Portugal didn't invent slavery...lololol

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Love that language portuguese. I must visit Portugal when I am I'm in Europe.

    • PacificWorldDMC profile image

      Pacific World DMC & PCO 4 years ago from Barcelona

      Interesting Hub !

    • profile image

      Vidalia 3 years ago

      Thanks for the article. Returning to st Michaels, Lisbon and algarve this summer. Do you have a similar list of facts for the azorean islands?

    • Global-Chica profile image
      Author

      Anna 3 years ago from New York, NY

      Vidalia, how exciting that you're returning to Portugal this summer. I'm glad that you enjoyed this article :) I haven't written a similar one about the Azores but thanks for the idea. Have a great time in Portugal!

    • Hezekiah profile image

      Hezekiah 3 years ago from Japan

      Very interesting, I've been to Portugal before , but never knew most of these facts.

    • Toytasting profile image

      Toy Tasting 3 years ago from Mumbai

      Awesome Hub! Most of these facts are new to me. Thank you for expanding my horizons on Portuguese. Learnt many surprising facts.

    • jenslibra profile image

      jenslibra 3 years ago

      I wasn't aware of many of these facts. Your photos of the country are beautiful. My favorite is that the oldest bookstore is in Portugal! Thanks for sharing these.

    • profile image

      Barbara 3 years ago

      we were there in 2008 for our fiftieth wedding anniversary. I must say it is a beautiful country. We would go back if God willing. when we go back to Italy B-)

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 3 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Awesome article on a country I know quite well.

      But they should have won the 2004 European Cup. I still can't believe Greece got away with it.

      And I love their Portuguese Transmontano Mastiff, a real livestock guardian dog that can be a great protector against wolf predation in the USA and Canada.

    • Tashaonthetown profile image

      Natasha Pelati 3 years ago from South Africa

      I had a brief stay in Portugal and wish I had this info then. Ver inteesting hub and will keep the info handy for the next trip!

    • Vivian-tmt-hnp profile image

      Vivian-tmt-hnp 3 years ago from USA.

      8:41am Friday 16 August 2013

      Dear Global-Chica,

      Thank for your nice article. I can learn more about Portugal when reading yours.

      Vivian

    • profile image

      Oscar Pena 3 years ago

      Love your article . I am portuguese living in America but my country and my people are always close to my heart . Thank you .

    • profile image

      Dennis 3 years ago

      Most Americans do not know mainland Portuguese, only people from Azores. Different cultures, like Spanish and Mexican.

    • Ken Westmoreland profile image

      Ken Westmoreland 3 years ago from Taunton, Somerset

      Portugal is a very nice country, I agree, but you have got your facts mixed up regarding countries where Portuguese is an official language. São Tomé e Príncipe is one country, not two, while Portuguese is an official language in East Timor. It is still an official language in Macau, which is a special administrative region of China. Equatorial Guinea only recently adopted it as one of its official languages - despite being a former Spanish colony, there are people there who speak a Portuguese creole.

      Many words from Portuguese have entered different languages, for example, the words for 'table' in Swahili and Indonesian, 'meza' and 'meja', both come from 'meja' in Portuguese. This is a legacy of when Portuguese was a trade language - Portugal needs to rediscover that intrepid and entrepreneurial spirit again!

      The Treaty of Windsor is an anachronism - logically, Britain should have helped defend Portugal when Goa was taken over by India, but it didn't.

    • profile image

      Constance Houck 3 years ago

      Lived in Portugal over three years and still learned a couple of new factoids. Such an amazing tiny little country, for a visit or a new life.

    • profile image

      Prince Albert 3 years ago

      what happened to having the UK's back in WWII?

    • profile image

      Susan Morrison 3 years ago

      My family is from Madeira, I would love to see more written about this part of Portugal , I feel left out? The island in my mind is a combo of old world Europe and the flora of Hawaii. What do you think.

    • profile image

      Pedro Vieira 3 years ago

      Awesome list! For the readers planning to travel to Portugal, I recommend using services like www.WiserGo.com which let's you design several travel packages with Portuguese agents, select your favorite, they will book everything and provide customer support while you're in Portugal. Since they are local agents, they know the ins-and-outs of everything and you get to experience the country as a local!

    • profile image

      gus 3 years ago

      Congratulations on your great work I'm glad you did it so people can see that Portugal doesn't end at Ronaldo's backyard there is so much more to see and also that portuguese is a language (no, we don't Speak spanish or french in Portugal) also Portugal its not in south America nor a french or Spanish province, yes we are a nation and we are in europe. Just as a curiosity portuguese were in Australia about 200 years earlier than captain Cook

    • profile image

      Phyllis Padinha 3 years ago

      I'm Portuguese and proud. Awesome hub. Will visit portugal next year, I can't wait❤️

    • carrie Lee Night profile image

      Kept private 3 years ago from Northeast United States

      Interesting hub! :) Voted up. Thank you for taking the time to write this. Have a great week.

    • profile image

      Maria Soares 3 years ago

      Awesome information that the majority doesn't know about it.

    • profile image

      grace 2 years ago

      have a great week

    • profile image

      Ralonados girlfriend 2 years ago

      I love u honey xxox

    • profile image

      Ralnados girlfriend 2 years ago

      I love u

    • profile image

      Alexandra Condesso 2 years ago

      Loved this article about my beautiful country. You are all most welcome in here!

    • profile image

      emanuela 2 years ago

      portuguese is alsospoken in Angola and Mozambique

    • bibliopola profile image

      Işın Tuzcular 2 years ago from Istanbul

      I plan to see Lisbon, an interesting lens for me :)

    • profile image

      Mikey Cabral 2 years ago

      We are "KNOWN" where it matters.

      Long live Portugal ........ :)

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      We are planning to visit this winter so I am really absorbing all of these info.

    • linfcor profile image

      Linda F Correa 2 years ago from Spring Hill Florida

      My husbands family is Portugese, so I really love the sound and passion of the Fado. Good article

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      hi 2 years ago

      this is cool

    • Thomasjames1992 profile image

      Thomas James 2 years ago from London

      Great hub love Portugal!

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      Alex 11 months ago

      Just so you now, "principe" and "são tomé" are the same country: São Tomé and Principe

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      Debbie 7 months ago

      Sorry but Portugal did not host the World cup in 1998. The country host was France.

      Thanks

    • profile image

      Margaridab 7 months ago

      Good article with interesting facts

    • profile image

      *Can't tell safety reasons* 6 months ago

      This is very useful for my project about Portugal! I'm glad I checked this out!!!

    • profile image

      Francisco 3 months ago

      Portugal was not only the first country to abolish slavery but also the first country to START slavery!!

      (I'm Portuguese)

    • profile image

      geography pro 3 months ago

      Another interesting fact about Portugal:

      Portugal holds the record for the shortest reign: Prince Luis Filipe reigned for less than 10 minutes!!!

    • profile image

      hi 2 months ago

      great facts

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      David 2 months ago

      Awesome List!! My mom moved from Portugal when she was 9 and this covers everything she has told us!!!

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